Twitter executive gets HC relief from arrest in Ghaziabad case
The Karnataka High Court on Thursday gave interim protection from arrest to Twitter India executive Manish Maheshwari in relation to a FIR that has been filed by the Uttar Pradesh police over a video showing an attack on a Muslim man in Ghaziabad. The police’s claim is that the video was manipulated to present a skewed communal narrative, and it was amplified by its spread on Twitter.
The court also said that the police could “communicate” with Maheshwari by “virtual mode”, which saves the Twitter executive the trouble of appearing before the police in person as he was asked to. Maheshwari was expected to visit Loni Kotwali in Ghaziabad on Thursday at 10.30 am.
“He did not arrive, and we came to know that he moved high court. So, we will now wait for the...directions of the court on the next date of hearing. In case the petitioner (Maheshwari) wishes to come on his own, he can come and give his statements to the police,” said Atul Kumar Sonkar, circle officer of Loni.
Maheshwari’s argument is that he is an employee of Twitter India, not responsible for circulating the video, nor uploading it, and in charge of sales and advertising in the region.
“The order is no coercive action; let not the investigation be hampered; and the IO (Investigating Officer) is at liberty to record his (Maheshwari’s) statement through video conferencing after keeping him informed beforehand,” CV Nagesh, the senior counsel who appeared on behalf of Maheshwari told Hindustan Times.
Nagesh said that on June 17, the investigating officer issued a notice under section 160 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to the Managing Director of Twitter India but the fact is that Maheshwari is not managing director.
Twitter India did not respond to mails and texts from Hindustan Times seeking comment. This is Maheshwari’s second brush with the law in recent weeks. In late May, he was questioned by the Delhi police’s special cell over the company tagging the post of BJP leader Sambit Patra “manipulated media”. That tweet spoke of a Congress social media campaign orchestrated to show the government in bad light. The Congress claimed this “toolkit” was forged. The police have said that because Twitter tagged the tweet “manipulated media” it must have some information on it. Maheshwari’s defence in that incident too is the same -- that he is not responsible for such tagging.
According to Nagesh, a notice under section 160 can be issued by the investigator for a cognizable crime for securing the presence of a person as a witness in the prosecution.
Maheshwari responded to this notice , pointing out he was only an employee and knew nothing of this case but offering to appear before the investigating authorities and record his statement through VC as he was in Bengaluru.
“Then in the next two days, the investigator issued a notice under 41(A) ” Nagesh said.
“Clarification given by you is inappropriate. Being the MD of Twitter in India, you are the representative of the company. Therefore, you are bound by the Indian law to cooperate in the investigation,” the notice sent by the police said, Hindustan Times reported on Thursday.
“But the rider for the issuance of 41(a) is only against a person against whom the crime has been registered or suspected to have been involved in the commissioning of the crime . Otherwise they can’t issue a notice,” Nagesh said.
The senior counsel stated that Maheshwari was willing to travel to Uttar Pradesh if the counsel representing the state gives an undertaking to the Karnataka HC that they will not arrest him.
The case will next be heard on June 29 in Karnataka HC.